Manning not the problem in Denver's latest loss

Associated Press Modified: October 8, 2012 at 5:17 pm •  Published: October 8, 2012
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ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) — Looking for someone to blame for Denver's latest loss?

Look anywhere other than the locker belonging to No. 18, Peyton Manning.

From a confused defense that couldn't get off the field to a butterfingered offense that couldn't stay on it to a coaching staff that got outmaneuvered at every turn, the Broncos dug themselves a hole in a 31-21 loss to New England on Sunday. Manning made his usual determined effort to get them out of it, but came up short.

Denver fell to 2-3 and raised a critical question nearly a third of the way into the season: Sure, the Broncos upgraded at quarterback by acquiring Manning in the offseason, but did they take care of the rest?

"There are a lot of what-ifs," Manning said after the loss. "The key is that we learn from them and hopefully we can respond next week with the win."

A look at Denver's flaws, by the numbers:

—89: Working out of a rapidly moving no-huddle offense, the Patriots ran 89 plays on offense — 23 more than Denver — often snapping the ball before the Broncos defense even got aligned. The Broncos allowed 444 yards and four scoring drives of 80 yards or more. They were down 31-7 late in the third quarter.

"It goes back to what you learn in high school," coach John Fox said Monday. "It's alignment, assignment and responsibility. It all starts with alignment. It's important you get lined up."

—35: New England set a franchise record with 35 first downs, which was only four short of the NFL record last reached in 1990. The Patriots also held the ball for 35 minutes, 49 seconds.

—17: In the play that summed up the day for Denver, the Broncos allowed New England's Danny Woodhead to run for 18 yards on third-and-17 to extend a touchdown drive that made it 24-7. The play call came courtesy of former Broncos coach Josh McDaniels, now back on the New England sideline as Bill Belichick's offensive coordinator. It was one of 11 third downs the Patriots converted, four of which were on third-and-10 or longer.

"Really, at the end of the day, our third down's been a little bit of a bugaboo throughout this portion of the season," Fox said. "What's most disheartening about that is they weren't all third-and-1s."

—12: Number of spots the Denver rushing defense fell in one week after the Patriots ran for 251 yards on 54 carries, from ninth to 21st. It's also the number of stops made by Denver's co-leaders in tackles. Those leaders were Michael Adams and Rahim Moore — a pair of safeties, a telltale sign that the opponent's running backs are getting way too far downfield.

—7: Total number of fumbles lost this season by the Broncos, after adding three to the tally on Sunday. Only Kansas City and Philadelphia have lost more. Receiver Demaryius Thomas lost one for the second straight week after a long catch from Manning. It stopped Denver's first drive after Thomas had reached the New England 17. Running back Willis McGahee lost one in the fourth quarter after the Broncos had cut a 24-point deficit to 10 and were at the Patriots 11.

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